essay

Balance of shame and pride

I’ve been happier lately, and part of the reason is because I stopped shaming myself for not being perfect. I dealt with a lot of shame in my life, feeling that I was never quite good enough: I never did enough when I was homeschooling. I never kept my house clean enough. I never balanced my computer time right. I watched too many videos. I didn’t go outside enough. I needed to get in better shape.

You know those voices. I’m getting better about not listening.

Because I realized that if I listened, then I wouldn’t improve at all. I would actually get worse. If I shamed myself for yelling, I would yell more. If I shamed myself for wasting time, I would often waste even more time. I would punish myself by continuing to do the activity that was causing me pain. It’s not helpful.

I still make many mistakes every day. But improvement does not come from shame; improvement comes when I look ahead and when I focus on the good things I can do and keep pressing forward. If I spend a day yelling and wasting time and hurting other people, then the best thing I can do is apologize, let it go, and do better.

Whenever my kids hurt each other, I don’t make them go sit in a corner so they feel bad. I tell them to make it right by hugging the other person and saying they are sorry. I don’t need them to feel ashamed of what they did; I just want them to learn how to do it right the next time.

In a way, we define what enough is. And enough for me is that I keep on trying, no matter how many mistakes I make. Being enough means that I’m not going to listen to the voices that say I always need to more; instead, I’m going to know that my messy efforts are worthwhile.

***

On the other hand, I tend to get really proud sometimes. I’ve been very privileged in some ways: I can learn quickly. I understand well. I can do a lot in a day.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, or that the way I live is superior. I like to be on time; I like to keep my house clean; I like to have clean closets and minimal stuff. I like to plan in advance.

There are other people who are always late. They have messy closets and bursting schedules. They make quick decisions and they enjoy taking risks. And that’s awesome.

There are many different types of people and they are all important. I’m not better than someone else just because I know what derivatives are or I’ve read lots of books or whatever.

And someone isn’t better than me if they can run five miles or make homemade bread or they run their own business.

***

There is a balancing act in all of this: don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be confident, but don’t be proud. Celebrate others, give to them and love them. Don’t worry if you aren’t enough. Don’t be complacent and content without moving forward and improving.

I won’t ever be perfect. But I will keep trying.

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